The Best Albums of 2010

The year is coming to an end and I guess now is as good of a time as any to look back on the music of 2010. I should mention right off the bat that I do not consider myself a music critic in any sense of the term, nor do I consider myself an expert on all things music. I’m simply a fan of good music and I like what I like. I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of musical terms and probably couldn’t give you a thorough biographical account of the featured artists, so forgive me if my assessments aren’t entirely eloquent. With that in mind, may I humbly present to you my picks for the best albums of 2010.

1.BROTHERS, The Black Keys

There isn’t a single bad track on this album. It doesn’t once misfire, and never runs out of steam. From the escalating, inviting beats of its opener, “Everlasting Light” to the soulful Jerry Butler cover “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “These Days” as its closing songs, The Black Keys’ 6th album is a fantastic musical experience displaying an impressive evolution in sound without losing the bluesy roots that made the duo so unique and appealing in the first place. Their songs have graced countless films, TV shows, and commercials in the past years and you could picture lesser artists selling out, sitting back and collecting royalty checks, but with Brothers, The Black Keys move forward unblinkingly in new exciting ways. It fucking rocks.

2. CRAZY FOR YOU, Best Coast

This is the most addictive album of the year. It’s short and sweet, but for what it lacks in scope and grandeur, it certainly makes up for in its low-fi charms and catchy tunes. It’s impossible not to sort of fall in love with lead singer Bethany Cosentino, whose songs of heartbreak, boredom, and longing peer deep into the soul without being overly poetic or pretentious. She’s a cool chick with a rockin’ band and Crazy For You is that diamond in the rough that deserves your attention. Just look for the kitty by the palm trees. I’ll put this bluntly: Best Coast is the new band to keep and eye on. The fanbase is already solid and steadily growing, even Bill Murray is apparently a fan. Do you think you have better judgment than Bill Murray?

3.HIPPIES, Harlem

Speaking of bands to keep an eye on, Harlem has enjoyed a pretty successful year, busting out of the garage and into record stores with their second studio LP, Hippies. The drums and guitar are their friends. There’s no showing off here, only the essentials, which are used delightfully. Hippies sports a timeless, tried and true sound that may make you want to go out and surf or some shit. The songs are awesome. The second last track, “Pissed,” in particular is an indescribable joy to listen to. You owe it to yourself to take a listen below.

4.RECOVERY, Eminem

Eminem’s comeback was so grand it required two albums. While not many may share my opinion that last year’s Relapse is the superior album, least of all Eminem himself (who seems to be dissatisfied with it), Recovery is a triumph for the Detroit-rooted rap star, back in full force with something prove. The morbid, mind-bending raps are impressive as all hell and Eminem once again explores different themes and finds different sounds that make this release stand out. It’s insanity and energy that only Eminem can provide, accept no substitutes.

5. THE SUBURBS, Arcade Fire

I’d like to retract previous derogatory statements I have made about Montreal in the past. Surely it can’t be all that bad, especially if a band such as Arcade Fire can emerge from there. This is their third album, and it’s their best so far. It just may push them over the threshold of “Oh yeah I think I heard of them” to “OMFG they are my favourite.” As I write this, it was announced only yesterday that The Suburbs was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album Of The Year. Maybe Grammy Awards don’t mean all that much to most thinking people, but in an age of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber pop bullshit, it’s not just a victory, it’s a bold statement. Arcade Fire’s moving, reflective opus of where we’ve been and where we’re going is an instant classic.

6. MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY, Kanye West

Just ignore for a minute all the Taylor Swift interrupting, all the inane ranting, and the ego too big for this planet, and it’s hard to ignore that Kanye West is truly a master of his craft. It’s been two years since his last album, and it was worth the wait. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye West’s most ambitious album since College Dropout. West attempts greatness and is largely successful, it’s a hip-hop epic with all the bells and whistles, and it’s as huge in scale as it is exciting. This is Kanye with his lyrical bullets blazing.

7. EYELID MOVIES, Phantogram

It’s melodic, dreamy, sometimes surreal and frightening. Phantogram often played as an opening act to other artists such as The XX, Metric, and Minus The Bear, but with their debut LP, Eyelid movies, they have the opportunity to shine fully. This is an easy album to get caught up and lose yourself in, synths, beats, and crackles dominate the tracks…it’s not derivative of other experts in this area of music: the sound is fresh and exciting. At the risk of sounding cliche’d, it’s candy for the ears.

8. SEA OF COWARDS, The Dead Weather

Ask Jack White how his wife and kids are, he’ll most likely reply “people tell me they’re doing great.” The busiest guy in rock n’ roll returns to The Dead Weather with Sea Of Cowards, the group’s second album in as many years.  It’s hard to say if it’s all that much better or worse than Horehound, but it rocks just as hard, if not harder. The instrumentals grind away like magic and Alison Mosshart’s vocal’s are just as commanding and thrilling. It’s a great rock album, it’s big, it’s loud, and it never goes soft.

9. VOLUME TWO, She & Him

This is the kind of album you want to stick in the CD player while driving your convertible through California in the hopes of making it big in the city of dreamers. There’s more “she” than “him” when it comes to the vocals, M.Ward steps aside to give Zoey Deschanel’s angelic voice dominate the tunes. My God, what a beautiful voice she has. If this acting thing doesn’t work out for her, I’m sure no one will be upset if she falls back on this. Volume II has the old fashioned simplicity of  song birds from the 60’s, but it works, and it works splendidly. It’s an album that melts the heart and touches the soul.

10. RECORD COLLECTION, Mark Ronson and the Business Int’l

This is a mixed bag, for sure. But there is rarely a dull moment on Mark Ronson’s Record Collection. There’s a little bit of everything. There’s 80’s style snyth and hip-hop that works just a well as tribute as it does satire. I can’t say too many “get up and dance” tunes contain much social commentary as “Bang Bang Bang,” and I can’t say I’ve heard many hip-hop ballads to cruising around town on a bicyle as heard with “The Bike Song.” It’s high spirited and quasi-experimental, and delves a little deeper than your average pop fare. Record Collection may not get the gold, but it sure as hell enters every event.

Honorable Mentions, listed alphabetically by album title:

THE ARCHANDROID, Janelle Monae
ASTRO COAST, Surfer Blood
CRYSTAL CASTLES II, Crystal Castles
INNERSPEAKER, Tame Impala
MAYA, M.I.A
ROMANCE IS BORING, Los Compesinos!
STUCK ON NOTHING, Free Energy
TOMORROW IN A YEAR, The Knife

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